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Poverty Grows Under New Labour
Brown's Breadline Britain
NEW LABOUR faces a political crisis over foot-and-mouth. They can see the global turmoil in share prices. They obviously hope to hold an election soon, before things get even worse.
But what record will they defend at the ballot box? Since New Labour came to power in 1997, they've put overall taxation up from 35.3% to 37.7%. Yet they've reduced the share of national resources for public spending from 41% to 38%!
This government's policies of "prudence" have made the poor even poorer. A new survey shows that by Labour's third year of office, over five million people in Britain were living in absolute poverty, which affected people's health, education, housing, even whether they'd enough food to eat.
In September 1999, 9% of people had a weekly income way below what they needed to afford the absolute necessities of life.
The greatest concentration of poverty was amongst lone parents and pensioners. More than half of Britain's lone parents with two children or more had incomes below £227 a week - which the report says is their absolute poverty level.
A quarter of single pensioners' incomes fell below the £106 a week threshold needed to escape from the breadline.
The survey showed that countries such as Britain which followed Thatcherite policies most closely had the greatest and most permanent poverty.
New Labour say this survey was done before the national minimum wage and working families' tax credit (WFTC) had had time to work their way through.
True, the minimum wage helped some low-paid workers - unscrupulous employers paid so little that many workers would have been better off with any minimum wage, even one with Labour's appallingly low level.
Brown's so-called "family budget" put all its attention on getting people back to work. Some benefits such as WFTC only take effect when you get a job.
But poverty will reach even higher levels when Britain's "joyless" boom disappears and takes even more jobs with it.
After last week's budget, benefits are lagging even further behind wages and prices. Many workers wonder what happened to all the money they've paid in taxes and National Insurance? Why are they now offered a miserable level of benefit if unemployment hits them?
Capitalism has already put millions on the breadline - a new recession could submerge even more. Fight for a socialist alternative.
In The Socialist 16 March 2001: